Love + Healthcare

Since the next #HCLDR weekly tweetchat falls on February 14th, it seems natural to discuss the role of love + relationships + connection in healthcare. Join us at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) on Valentine’s Day when we will discuss the following questions:

  • Q1 What do you love most about working in or being an advocate for healthcare? Where does your healthcare passion come from?
  • Q2 What small, non-monetary, non-time-consuming things could be done by clinicians to show they care about their peers, especially those that are struggling?
  • Q3 What small, non-monetary, non-time-consuming things could be done by clinicians to show they care about their patients?
  • Q4 Spread the love. Share acts of kindness, love and connection in healthcare that you have experienced or witnessed.

According to the Beatles, all we need is love. They also said we can’t buy it. But maybe we can give ourselves a few moments each day to show that we really care about the people around us.

In a 2016 article, Peter Pronovost cited Barbara Fredrickson, a University of North Carolina psychology professor who wrote Love 2.0. In that book Fredrickson says that love is experienced when two people have “mricomoments of positive resonance” as they open themselves up to one another. Pronovost takes that concept and applied it to healthcare saying:

“This concept resonates so powerfully for health care. We know that our moments with patients and peers are often fleeting, and loving them in the conventional sense seems unrealistic. Yet when you understand the power of those loving micromoments, you unlock a secret to positive patient experience. Patients, their families and loved ones are vulnerable and worried. Will the diagnosis be malignant or benign? Will the treatment work? Will I be able to work, to garden, to have sex? This is where true acts of love — a light touch, a gentle smile, a caring conversation — can calm and connect them. We can signal our goodwill and open the door to more honest discussions about their concerns and goals for care.”

The question, of course, is how we can create these micromoments between clinicians and their patients. Similarly, is there anything that can be done to encourage these micromoments between clinicians, especially those that may be struggling with fatigue and/or mental health challenges.

The biggest impediment to these micromoments is time. We don’t allow enough time for physicians, nurses, or anyone working in healthcare to form connections. We’ve incentivized factory-healthcare. Breaking that operating approach may take years and a lot of money. Having said that, I believe there are small, low/zero cost ways that we can bring love back into healthcare and create better connections between people.

Here are a few of my suggestions:

  1. Organizational leaders should carry a thank you card with them and by the end of the day they have to give it to a staff member. It could be given out for any reason – seeing someone pick up garbage from the hall, someone who greeted a patient with a smile, someone who stayed an extra 10min because someone else was running late, etc. A short 1-2 sentence handwritten note should be made. The
  2. Include a personal detail on the profile pages of clinical staff like “I play piano” or “I enjoy Westerns”. This simple fact can be a conversation starter for patients and for fellow members of staff. Clinicians are more than their credentials.
  3. Make eye contact. Before starting the appointment or conversation, look the other person in the eye, smile and acknowledge them. That moment of eye contact can breakdown barriers almost as effectively as a hug.
  4. Say you want to help, then ask how to best do that. It isn’t easy to ask or accept help from a peer, so make it easy. State firmly that you want to help then ask your peer how to best do that. If they politely decline your offer, don’t just pull back, make a commitment to check back in with them on a specific date and be sure you do.

I’m looking forward to hearing the suggestions and comments from the HCLDR community on the topic of LOVE in healthcare!


Pronovost, Peter. “Patient Care: What’s Love Got to Do with It?”, Johns Hopkins Medicine, 12 February 2016,, accessed 13 February 2023

Minford, Dr. Eunice J. “The foundation of medicine is love”, KevinMD, 10 September 2018,, accessed 13 February 2023

Adib-Hajbaghery M, BolandianBafghi S. “Love in Nursing: A Concept Analysis”, Journal of Caring Sciences, June 2020,, accessed 13 February 2023

Blackall, Sophie. “When love and science double date”, The Harvard Gazette, 13 February 2018,, accessed 13 February 2023

Bonhoeffer, Jan MD. “Love as Medicine”, Psychology Today, 14 January 2023,, accessed 13 February 2023

Image Credit

Photo by Clara:

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